Wright to start for ’Bows in opener
UH meets LaTech in the WAC tourney, beginning tomorrow
FRESNO, Calif. » The long-awaited postseason campaign begins for the Hawaii baseball team tomorrow.
WAC Baseball Tournament
All times Hawaii time
Where: Beiden Field, Fresno, Calif.
Tomorrow's first round: Louisiana Tech vs. Hawaii, 8 a.m.; Nevada vs. San Jose State, noon; Sacramento State vs. Fresno State, 4 p.m.
Sunday's final: 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. (if necessary)
Web: Live video and audio and www.wac.org
The second-seeded Rainbows open the Western Athletic Conference tournament against the fifth-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Fresno State's Pete Beiden Field.
Hawaii will have a 1-hour practice today at Beiden Field. The 'Bows worked out at San Jose State yesterday morning before driving to Fresno.
The Rainbows (40-13) play the Bulldogs (32-23) in the first of three first-round games in the four-day, double-elimination tournament.
The winner earns the WAC's automatic berth in the 64-team NCAA tournament.
The last time the WAC held a postseason tournament was in 1999, and the last time the 'Bows advanced to the NCAA tournament was in 1993.
LaTech began the conference season by winning the first two games against UH at Les Murakami Stadium. The third game was rained out and made up three weeks ago when the 'Bows traveled to Ruston, La. Hawaii won all four games to take the season series.
However, the six teams here start with a clean slate. All any team has to do is get hot, play well and win four games to become the 2006 WAC champion.
"We have to keep pitching the way we have the last few weeks. We need to keep everything clicking and go out and play well," Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso said.
Steven Wright (10-2) will start for Hawaii. The junior right-hander took the loss in the first game against La-Tech on March 17. The Bulldogs collected 10 hits and scored six earned runs in 6 2/3 innings.
On May 3 at LaTech, Wright pitched eight innings, allowing six hits and just one earned run while striking out nine in picking up win No. 9.
"Steven is going to have to be on his game," Trapasso said.
LaTech coach Wade Simoneaux has not named his starting pitcher, but the Rainbows expect LaTech freshman right-hander Luke Burnett. In two starts against UH, the 6-foot-8 250-pounder allowed just eight hits in 10 2/3 innings. He gave up five runs, four earned, and walked seven, but fanned 13.
"Any time you have a guy 6-8 who throws in the low 90s, has his offspeed stuff working and has location, you are going to have trouble," UH leadoff batter Robbie Wilder said. "With Burnett, you hope he leaves the ball up. It will be a good challenge."
If Burnett is stingy, then Wright has to be just as stingy against the Bulldogs, who swing the bat well.
"LaTech is leading the league in hitting. They have all year and they are aggressive at the plate," Trapasso said.
"We haven't faced Burnett in a day game, but I don't think it will make a difference. It is tough to see his pitch early."
Also tomorrow, third-seeded San Jose State plays fourth-seeded Nevada in the afternoon game. The night game features top-seeded Fresno State against sixth-seeded Sacramento State, the team FSU swept last weekend in Sacramento to maintain its half-game lead over Hawaii to finish first in the regular season.
Fresno State will be without sophomore third baseman Beau Mills, the Bulldogs' leader in batting average (.355), home runs (14) and RBIs (58). According to Rivals.com, Mills was suspended for the rest of the season due to academic issues.
Wright among 30 up for award
Hawaii junior right-hander Steven Wright is one of 30 semifinalists for the Brooks Wallace Award, given to the national player of the year in college baseball.
Wright, who has won his last six starts, is 10-2 with a 2.48 ERA in 101 2/3 innings. He has struck out 110 with just 19 walks. He also has held his opposition to a .207 batting average and given up only five earned runs in his last six starts.
The selection committee will trim the list to three finalists following the NCAA Super Regionals on June 15. The finalists and their head coaches and parents will be invited to Lubbock, Texas, to participate in the July 3-4 celebration at the new College Baseball Hall of Fame.
The only other semifinalist from the Western Athletic Conference is Fresno State sophomore third baseman Beau Mills, who was recently suspended from the team.